The Plank

Today's Polls: Lipstick-free Edition

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Better late than never, right?Lots of interesting polling data
today, but the headline is that our model has now pretty much fully
caught up with John McCain's bounce -- attributing to him about a 1
point lead in the national popular vote. As a result, it also now
regards him as the slight favorite to win the Electoral College. As
I've disclaimed before, however, we are still in the immediate
aftermath of the convention period, and as such all polls need to be
treated cautiously. The next movement in the polls is still more likely
to be toward Obama than toward McCain.The two results that jump out to me are New Mexico and West Virginia. New Mexico polling has been all over the board all year, but Rasmussen
-- which had generally had pretty good numbers for Obama in the state
-- now shows a 2-point advantage for John McCain. Obama led by just 5
points among Hispanic voters in this poll; he'll likely need to win
that group by at least 10 to have a better-than-even chance of taking
the state.New Mexico is also a symbolically important state
because losing it would break Obama's firewall -- his seeming
path-of-least-resistance to 270 electoral votes consisting of the Kerry
states plus Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado. For the time being,
however, in consideration of other polling in the state as well as its
demographics, our model still regards Obama as the favorite in New
Mexico, although it also presently regards John McCain as a slight
favorite in Colorado.On the other side of the coin is West Virginia, where a Mark Blankenship Enterprises
poll shows John McCain ahead by just 5 points, with a high number of
undecideds. This poll has a small sample size and I don't know much
about the firm, although it's apparently been polling WVA for quite a
while. Those caveats aside, however, if West Virginia is truly polling
at just 5 points in the midst of McCain's convention bounce, it becomes
a pretty interesting state. Remember, there are a lot
of Democrats in West Virginia, and a particularly large number of
Clinton Democrats, a group which may be coming home to Obama even
amidst his difficulties. And there are not
a lot of evangelicals; West Virginia is fairly culturally conservative,
but it is not Southern ethnographically. There are scattered reports
that Obama has devoted more resources to West Virginia; it remains a
long-shot for him, but his staff would surely be doing more good there
than somewhere like Alaska.CNN has a series of polling out
in Michigan, New Hampshire, Missouri and Virginia. Obama leads in the
two Kerry states -- Michigan and New Hampshire -- while trailing in the
Bush states, Missouri and Virginia. I don't find any of these numbers
terribly surprising. While McCain's numbers have surged among
independents, and New Hampshire has the highest percentage of
independents in the country, independents are less homogeneous than
either Democrats or Republicans, and the sort of high-info,
libertarianish variety that is common to New Hampshire probably won't
take well to Sarah Palin. Also, note that I use the version of these
polls with the third-party candidates included; most outlets will
report the other version.Public Policy Polling
shows a 4-point lead for John McCain in North Carolina, quite a
contrast to SurveyUSA's 20. It appears that PPP weighted by party ID,
whereas SurveyUSA did not, which accounts for most of the difference.
Yesterday, I was pretty dismissive of North Carolina as a tipping point
state for Barack Obama -- and even after seeing the PPP poll, I still
am. It is not that the state is completely out of reach for Obama, but
that it's difficult to conjure up any realistic scenario in which it's
the state to put him over the top to 270 electoral votes.Strategic Vision
has Obama just 2 points ahead in Pennsylvania. This looks like bad news
for Obama, but Strategic Vision has a Republican lean, and has had some
particularly weird polling out in Pennsylvania this year, which has
ranged from McCain +10 to Obama +9. At this point, Pennsylvania is
still not quite a top-tier swing state, though if Quinnipiac comes out
with the same numbers, the model right be ready to change its mind.Lastly, North Dakota
has probably followed Montana off Obama's board. This looks like it's
basically going to be a seven-state election: Ohio and Michigan;
Virgina and Florida; Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Throw New Hampshire
and Pennsylvania in there if you want to be conservative, and perhaps
Indiana and West Virginia if you want to be aggressive. But Sarah Palin
quickly partisanized the electorate, and gave us a considerably less
fun map.Oh yeah -- and Palin has given John McCain one heck of a VP bounce
in Alaska.

--Nate Silver 

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